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Customer Support Ruling

   
 

Annual Mailings by Credit Card Issuers Organizing All Account Transactions
June 2005

PS-321 (233.2.3)

In this Customer Support Ruling a case study clarifies whether certain “personal information” present in the mailpiece of a credit card issuer’s mailing is part of an “explicit” advertisement where all of the personal information is “directly related” to the advertisement and the “exclusive” purpose for including the personal information is to support the advertisement.

This ruling concerns the classification of annual mailings by credit card issuers organizing all account transactions.  In addition to the name and address of the customer (the addressee) and an account  number (neither of which is generally considered to be “personal information” for mail classification purposes), the mailpiece, a year-end summary sent by EZ Credit Card, contains fields completed by a computer that show the date of each card usage or purchase by the addressee, description of the product or service, the amount paid for each purchase, place of purchase, and the beginning and ending dates of the statement. The mailpiece does include a space advertisement for a rental car agency and a sentence encouraging the card holder to continue using the EZ Credit Card when making future purchases.

Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 233.2.3* provides that mailpieces containing personal information must be entered at First-Class Mail rates unless they are eligible for Standard Mail or Package Services rates under the respective provisions.  DMM 243.2.2* provides that personal information may not be included in a Standard Mail mailpiece unless three conditions are met: the mailpiece contains explicit advertising for a product or service for sale or lease or an explicit solicitation for a donation; all of the personal information is directly related to the advertising or solicitation; and the exclusive reason for inclusion of all of the personal information is to support the advertising or solicitation in the mailpiece.

Personal information in the mailpiece includes the date of each card usage or purchase, description of the product or service, the amount paid for each purchase, place of purchase, and the beginning and ending dates of the annual statement.  Accordingly, in order to be eligible for entry as Standard Mail, the piece would need to meet the test established in DMM 243.2.2; i.e. contain explicit advertising for a product or service for sale or lease; relate all personal information to that advertising; and have no other purpose for inclusion of the personal information other than to support the advertising.

Although the mailpiece does include an explicit advertisement for a rental car agency, the personal information contained in the mailpiece does not have any direct relationship to the space advertisement for the rental car agency.  Moreover, the mailpiece also does not meet the third factor in DMM 243.2.2, because it states reasons for inclusion of the personal information other than to support advertising: it advises that “This statement may be used for your annual budgeting”; and urges “Save this summary for personal and tax records for the year.”  It is also  noted  that although the card issuer urges the addressee to continue to use the card when making future purchases, that statement is not an explicit advertisement for a product or service for sale or lease.

In conclusion, the mailpiece does not meet the test established in 243.2.2 and the personal information requires the mailpiece to be sent at First-Class Mail rates.

*See also DMM 333.2, 433.2, 343.2, and 443.2.

(Signed)
Sherry Suggs
Manager
Mailing Standards
United States Postal Service
Washington DC 20260-3436